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Research & Commentary: Ohio Looks to Ensure Eligibility and Limit SNAP Fraud

November 16, 2017

In this Research & Commentary, Matthew Glans examines a new bill in Ohio that would require state officials to conduct quarterly eligibility checks on food stamp recipients, using several state and federal databases.

In an effort to combat fraud and abuse in its food stamp and Medicaid programs, a, while expanding the data used in those checks. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the Food Stamp system, has become one of the fastest-growing welfare programs. SNAP is the fourth-largest means-tested program for low-income families and individuals. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the benefits are distributed by individual states.

Eligibility remains one of the key issues with SNAP. The current income and asset test for SNAP requires recipients to have a gross income below 130 percent of the poverty level and a net income below 100 percent of poverty, without having more than $2,000 in assets. These requirements are much closer to defining people in real need, but many SNAP recipients are accepted under looser standards through “categorical eligibility.” In the states using categorical eligibility for the SNAP program, recipients are determined not by the income and asset limitations established for SNAP itself, but by participation in other cash welfare assistance programs, which can have lesser eligibility standards.

Currently, about 1.5 million Ohioans receive food stamp benefits. Under the new system, Ohio officials would be required to ask SNAP applicants personal and financial history questions to verify their identity. According to Cleveland.com, under the bill, data from Medicaid recipients would be crosschecked with various records, including “real estate records, tax records, state lottery winnings, state residency data, other public assistance programs, incarceration records and immigration status reports.”

Any discrepancies or other “red flags” would be reported to local officials, who would then be required to investigate further. Once a problem is identified, recipients would be notified in writing and have 10 days to answer any inquires. If those recipients are found to have failed to comply with existing standards or fail to respond entirely, the state would have the power to deny an application or suspend benefits. This would allow officials to ensure only those truly needing assistance receive aid.

According to the Portland Press Herald, a similar program in Maine “identified more than $1.7 million in theft in 2016. The state also increased the number of welfare investigators from 9 to 17 at a cost of $700,000.”

Over the past four years, SNAP rolls have begun to slowly decline, but recent reports now suggest many states have relied on inaccurate data to monitor their payments and eligibility standards for SNAP. States are required by law to provide data to the SNAP Quality Control program indicating their error-rate statistics related to overpayments made to ineligible recipients and underpayments to those who should have received benefits.

In a 2015 audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, investigators found numerous problems with SNAP quality control data collected in eight states. The report found the data improved in seven of the eight states audited after they hired outside consultants; the average error rates for seven of the eight states dropped an average of 55 percent. The audit also highlighted the quality control system’s vulnerability to abuse. These discrepancies are important because a state can receive millions of dollars in federal performance bonuses by reporting lower payment errors, and bad data could lead states to receive tax dollars they did not earn.

Welfare reforms ought to focus on encouraging able-bodied recipients who are enrolled in these programs to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on government, by providing temporary or supplemental assistance while encouraging work and independence. Placing a greater emphasis on strong eligibility standards and limiting fraud is an important first step toward ensuring Ohio’s SNAP programs remain viable for those truly in need.

The following articles provide additional information about SNAP.

 

Welfare Reform Report Card: A State-by-State Analysis of Anti-Poverty Performance and Welfare Reform Policies
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/2015-welfare-reform-report-card?source=policybot
In 2015, The Heartland Institute published an updated version of its Welfare Reform Report Card. This report card compiles extensive data on five “inputs” and five “outputs” of state welfare and anti-poverty programs and assigns a final grade to each state for its welfare policies.

Welfare Reform after Ten Years: A State-by-State Analysis
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/no-119-welfare-reform-after-ten-years-a-state-by-state-analysis?source=policybot
In 2008, The Heartland Institute published Welfare Reform after Ten Years: A State-by-State Analysis, which reports the welfare policy choices of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and then ranks the states by how aggressively they have implemented effective policies. The study provides policymakers with a roadmap to successful anti-poverty efforts.

Food Stamp Dependence in the States
http://thefga.org/solutions/food-stamps/
This interactive map from Foundation for Government Accountability shows what percentage of each state’s population is dependent on food stamps and how much it costs the state.

Research & Commentary: Work Requirements Are a Necessary Component of Any SNAP Reform Plan
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research--commentary-work-requirements-are-a-necessary-component-of-any-snap-reform-plan?source=policybot
In this Heartland Institute Research & Commentary, Matthew Glans examines the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and recent proposals to reform food stamp programs by restoring work requirements.

Welfare Rules Database
http://anfdata.urban.org/wrd/Query/query.cfm 
The Urban Institute’s Welfare Rules Database provides a “comprehensive, sophisticated resource for comparing cash assistance programs between states” and for researching changes in cash assistance rules between states.

The Work Versus Welfare Tradeoff: 2013
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/the-work-versus-welfare-trade-off-2013-1?source=policybot
The Cato Institute estimates the value of the full package of welfare benefits available to a typical recipient in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study found welfare benefits outpace the income most recipients can expect to earn from an entry-level job, and the income gap between welfare and work may actually have grown worse in recent years.

More States Enforce Food Stamp Work Requirements
http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/09/15/more-states-enforce-food-stamp-work-requirements
With the U.S. economy emerging from the recession, food stamp work requirements suspended during the downturn will be reinstated in many states, says Jake Grovum notes in Stateline.

Research & Commentary: SNAP Update and the Return of Work Requirements
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research--commentary-snap-update-and-the-return-of-work-requirements?source=policybot
In this Heartland Institute Research & Commentary, Matthew Glans examines the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and recent proposals to reform food stamp programs by restoring work requirements.

Maine Food Stamp Work Requirement Cuts Non-Parent Caseload by 80 Percent
http://www.heritage.org/welfare/report/maine-food-stamp-work-requirement-cuts-non-parent-caseload-80-percent#_ftnref36
Robert Rector, Rachel Sheffield, and Kevin Dayaratna of The Heritage Foundation examine Maine’s food stamp reforms and discuss how they could act as a model for other states. “The Maine food stamp work requirement is sound public policy. Government should aid those in need, but welfare should not be a one-way handout. Able-bodied, nonelderly adults who receive cash, food, or housing assistance from the government should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid. Giving welfare to those who refuse to take steps to help themselves is unfair to taxpayers and fosters a harmful dependence among beneficiaries,” the authors wrote.

Maine Entitlement Reforms, Audits Cut ‘SNAP’ Fraud Rates
https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/maine-entitlement-reforms-audits-cut-snap-fraud-rates?source=policybot
Kimberly Morin writes in Budget & Tax News about entitlement reforms in Maine which have led to a decline in the amount of one type of program fraud occurring in the state.

 

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Budget & Tax News website, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

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Article Tags
Entitlements
Author
Matthew Glans joined the staff of The Heartland Institute in November 2007 as legislative specialist for insurance and finance. In 2012, Glans was named senior policy analyst.
mglans@heartland.org @HeartlandGR